The green glow has returned to the shamrock, and Lucky the Leprechaun has reason to be as jolly as ever. The Boston Celtics are back on top of the NBA world as they make their lone visit to the Ford Center tonight to face the Thunder. But the celebration of the Celtics’ success stretches from Massachusetts to Minnesota, from Orlando to Oklahoma City.
The adulation stops at the feet of Thunder coach P.J. Carlesimo. "It wouldn’t have bothered me if they stayed down as they had been for a while,” Carlesimo said. "That’s me. I’m not anti-Boston but I didn’t really care.” But even Carlesimo, who admittedly grew up rooting against the Celtics and doesn’t care much for them to this day, acknowledged that what’s good for the Celtics is good for the entire league. "For the fans and for the TV ratings, it was a grand slam,” Carlesimo said of the Celtics’ return to glory. "That is good for the league when you have those kinds of ratings. It’s fantastic.” With an overall 11.5 rating, last year’s NBA Finals between the Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers drew the largest audience for a Finals series since 2001 and was up 43 percent over the 2007 San Antonio-Cleveland series. The Celtics’ impact likely will be more palpable tonight in what’s expected to be a sold-out Ford Center. Fans in green-and-white Celtics jerseys will line up two and three deep along the rail leading to Boston’s locker room, waiting for stars Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen to pose for snapshots and pause for signings. Boston had the best road attendance in the league last season, boosting opposing team’s revenue by averaging 19,042 fans in their buildings. By comparison, the Celtics were 15th in road attendance during their 24-win 2006-07 season with an average of 17,570 fans. Brian Byrnes, the Thunder’s senior vice president for ticket sales and service, said the franchise is one of many that will use the Celtics’ success to help drive their business. "There’s a buzz in Oklahoma City today,” Byrnes said Tuesday.